Lots of people collect things. Some people collect action figures, others collect trading cards. Me? I collect dragons.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved dragons. The mythology and lore behind them, their portrayal in fantasy, the presence of them in pop culture. Because, really, dragons are pretty cool. They hoard all the treasure, live in caves, and are really, really tough. Well, at least in the European tradition. But Chinese dragons are also cool for various other reasons. And, yeah, okay, European dragons are usually evil. But....they just look SO COOL. (case in point: an Order of the Stick evil dragon. It's black and purple. What's wrong with that?)
So, before we get into my exact reasons for why and when I started exactly collecting dragons, and what I mean by that (soooo many dragons......it's wonderful!), I thought I'd give a brief background on the different types of dragons.
European Dragons: Most people, when they think of dragons, jump to Medieval Europe, and the concept portrayed of a dragon there. They're the big serpents who breathe fire, have four legs and wings, are really hard to kill, hoard treasure, abduct maidens, and generally get killed by knights. That's been the general portrayal of dragons since the Arthurian time. There are a lot of other European portrayals of dragons, though. There are Germanic dragons, Celtic dragons, Slavic dragons, Italian dragons.....the list goes on and on. Among the different European types, there are several variations, from the number of legs to their general attitude toward human beings. For example, in Slavic mythology, dragons are depicted as being possibly male or female, and they tend to represent the forces of agriculture. The male and female dragons are in constant battle with each other. The female dragon destroys crops, as the hater of mankind, while the male dragon defends man and the crops.
Chinese dragons: While European dragons tend to be a malevolent force, Chinese dragons generally are signs of good fortune, strength, and power. They look a bit more snakelike, and are revered, rather than feared. They tend to look much more serpentine than their European counterparts, with no wings.
While the lore behind them is fascinating, the usage of dragons in modern day fantasy culture is something almost completely new. Some universes do still portray dragons as deadly and dangerous. Harry Potter is a good example of this. So many people think Hagrid is crazy for wanting a pet dragon, and it is common knowledge that Gringotts is guarded by dragons. However, there's more to the story there than people realize. While dragons are dangerous, people do still work with them, or exert control over them. Charlie Weasley studies dragons in Romania, and I can't think of anyone who's read book 7 who doesn't feel bad for that dragon they "rescue" in Gringotts. (No spoilers, so, if you don't know what I'm talking about, go read book 7).
Other modern stories show people working with dragons, or at the very least dragons and humans co-habitating and getting along. Entire universes show people getting to know dragons in different contexts than before. The universes built by Christopher Paolini's Eragon and Ann McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern series (which I admit I haven't read, but at least the Pern series is on my list of things to read) exemplify the concept of a dragon and a human being bonded to each other, a dragon and its rider. Avatar the Last Airbender also roughly alludes to this phenomenon. The D&D universe even has characters in the role playing games who are half dragon, and half human....implying some very... interesting character backstories and some even more interesting relationships between humans and dragons.
Perhaps the recent movie and children's series How to Train Your Dragon (which I'm actually watching while writing this post; go figure) best characterizes the shifting attitude towards dragons. At the beginning of the movie, the height of achievement in the village is to kill a dragon. But throughout the course of the movie, and through one silly little viking child who is too scrawny to kill a dragon, well, *spoilers* the attitude of the village shifts, and instead of killing the dragons, the villagers work with the dragons. And it's rather adorable. As is Toothless. */spoilers*
Well, now you're all caught up on dragon backgrounds, on to discussing my collection!
I began collecting dragons probably a few years ago. I had gathered various things that had dragons on them, like pictures, or figurines, or even jewelry. At one point, I decided to just keep collecting dragon things. I have books, pictures, drawings, figurines, and candles. All of them dragons, and different types of dragons.
And this picture, which sadly didn't come out very well, due to the flash and the plastic covering, I got from a Chinese street vendor in San Francisco. It's also sideways, but it features two Chinese dragons around each other. So yeah, pretty awesome.
I leave you all with a few recommendations.
1. One series that portrays dragons very well, in my opinion at least, that may not be well known:
The Unicorn Chronicles, by Bruce Coville. While the series doesn't focus on dragons, they are still a fairly large portion of the plot, and very well handled. This series was probably one of my first few encounters with dragons as a kid, and I completely loved it. It might get overlooked because it, well, is mostly about Unicorns, but, like I said, dragons are an integral part of the plot line, even if minimal.
2. On the side of collecting things, I firmly believe that you should always be on the lookout for whatever it is you're collecting. You never know where you might find a new and exciting piece for your collection.
3. Here are some fun links, to more dragons. I thought I would share them with you.
Dragon. Not Lizard.
Dragons in Avatar: The Last Airbender
In case you haven't seen this....you should.
Well, that's all I got for you now. Angel out!